Internal contradictions sink SP-BSP alliance

BJP scored over the combine with a better choice of candidates, re-writing caste equations in U.P.

May 24, 2019 10:10 pm | Updated May 25, 2019 12:58 pm IST - LUCKNOW

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati and Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh at an election rally in Varanasi on May 16, 2019.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati and Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh at an election rally in Varanasi on May 16, 2019.

The dismal showing of the Samajwadi Party- Bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) alliance in Uttar Pradesh points to both internal factors within the parties as well as the BJP’s conscious broader appeal, defeating the caste arithmetic.

Of the 15 winning candidates of the alliance, six were Muslims. Overall eleven of the alliance’s successful candidates were Muslims, Yadavs and Jatavs.

Minority candidates won in Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur and Amroha, which have an majority of Muslims. In Saharanpur, where Jatavs and Muslims are in large numbers, the BSP’s Fazlur Rehman pipped the BJP candidate by 22,417 votes even though the Congress’ Imran Masood cut into over 2 lakh votes, presumably mostly Muslim.

In Ghazipur, which has a substantial population of Yadavs and Jatavs, the BSP’s Afzal Ansari defeated Union Minister Manoj Sinha. The BSP also won in Ghosi, Bijnor and Shravasti, which have significant Muslim population, fielding Bhumihar, Gujjar and Kurmi candidates, respectively. In Ambedkar Nagar, a Brahmin, Ritesh Pandey, defeated the BJP’s Mukut Bihari.


Mulayam jolted

While SP chief Akhilesh Yadav won handsomely in Azamgarh, where Yadavs, Muslims and Jatavs are in a majority, his father Mulayam Singh won with a reduced margin of less than 95,000 votes in the Yadav bastion of Mainpuri, even though BSP chief Mayawati had campaigned for him. In 2014, even without the alliance, Mulayam Singh had won by over 3.64 lakh votes.

The BSP’s other wins came in the reserved seats of Lalganj and Nagina going to Jatav candidates, while a Yadav won in the Yadav-dominated Jaunpur.

The BSP came off better from the alliance as it won 10, while the SP could only manage five, losing its strongholds of Budaun, Firozabad and Kannauj.

While the two parties are still analysing the results, observers feel the SP’s poor performance could be due to the shabby vote transfer from the BSP, the infighting in the Yadav clan and Shivpal Yadav’s rebellion, poor distribution of tickets and the fact that the SP got a tougher lot of seats.

Rajan Pandey, a journalist who has co-authored a book on elections in U.P., feels not only was Mayawati unable to fully transfer her Dalit votes to the SP, her own vote bank has shrunk heavily and is no longer a “bloc” like it was in the 1990s.

“BSP claims it is a party of Dalits but it has been reduced to be a party of Jatavs and even not all Jatavs are with it,” Mr. Pandey pointed out.

He believes that the Yadavs, who were assumed to be less inclined to vote for the BSP, had displayed a better rate of transfer of votes than the Jatavs, contrary to popular perception. “Yadavs voted for the alliance with a sense of ownership,” he adds.

Former bureau chief of Blitz magazine Pradeep Kapoor agrees and points out that the SP’s Dharmendra Yadav lost in Budaun, where Yadavs and Muslims are in large numbers as the BSP vote didn't transfer. Results show that the Congress candidate Saleem Sherwani played spoiler for the SP in Budaun by cutting into Muslim votes.

“The huge turnout at Mayawati’s rallies are deceiving as she has always been able to get big crowds. The alliance, not only came too late for SP and BSP to form a chemistry, the two parties also didn't focus on the non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalits,” said Mr. Kapoor.

The ticket distribution of the two sides also hints at that. In the 78 seats the alliance contested, it gave a preference to its core voting communities. They fielded 10 Muslims, 12 Yadavs — including 10 by the SP — and 10 Jatavs in 17 reserved seats, including nine by the BSP.

The alliance was also riddled with contradictions, as it gave more space to upper castes — fielding such 20 candidates — than the non-Yadav OBC (19), despite running a campaign on “social justice” and promising a 2% tax on elite upper castes. The alliance also had just three Jat candidates — two of them from the RLD's ruling family.

The BJP, on the other hand, focused on its upper caste core, fielding 34 upper caste candidates, including 14 each from Brahmin and Thakur communities, and a wider coalition of non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalits.

The party along with its ally Apna Dal fielded just one Yadav, Nirahua in Azamgarh, while giving ticket to 28 non-Yadav OBCs, including eight Kurmis, five Jats, four Lodhs, four Maurya/Saini, four Mallahs and two Gujjars. Mr. Modi also pitched himself as a “most-backward caste” leader.

In reserved seats too, the BJP focused on the non-Jatav Dalits, fielding only two Jatavs and 15 non-Jatavs, comprising six Pasis, three Khatiks, and one each from the Dhanuk, Valmiki, Kol, Dhangar, Gond and Kori communities.

Professor Badri Narayan of the G.B Panth Institute in Prayagraj, says the “social cause” behind the failure of the alliance was that they rested on just “three big” communities, not realizing that the BJP had built a “bigger social alliance” comprising the upper castes, OBCs competing against the Yadavs, and most backward sections along with the rest of the Dalits, apart from Jatavs.

Mr. Narayan says the SP base shrank from within due to Shivpal Yadav's rebellion. In Firozabad, he garnered enough votes to ensure his nephew Akshay Yadav lost. The internal dissatisfaction over ticket distribution and the failure to build new social coalitions also cost the party dear. The BSP’s votes may not have transferred to the SP in the same manner as the Yadavs to the BSP, adds Mr. Narayan, suggesting the BSP campaign failed to mitigate the Jatav's social distrust towards the Yadavs.

Weak candidates

Observers also say the poor selection of candidates hurt the alliance on several seats. For instance, in Phulpur which the SP won in 2018 in a by-poll, the party replaced its Kurmi MP with a Yadav candidate, on a seat traditionally dominated by Kurmis. The BJP’s Kurmi candidate romped home with a margin of 1.71 lakh votes.

The individual arithmetic of the SP and BSP also did not add up as the combined vote of the two parties dropped from 42.2% in 2014 to 37.22%; the RLD, which fought three seats, got 1.67%. Here too, the SP was the biggest loser, as its vote share dipped from 22.35% to 17.96%. The results also indicate a huge swing of voters —apart from Jatavs, Muslims and Yadavs — in favour of the BJP, overturning traditional calculations.

In 18 out of the 64 seats won by the BJP alliance, it recorded a higher victory margin from 2014.

For instance, in Jhansi, the party had won in 2014 with a handsom margin of 1.90 lakh against a divided Opposition.

However, despite incumbent Uma Bharti being replaced by a debutant Brahmin candidate, the BJP got over eight lakh votes and increased its lead to 3.65 lakh.

“The BJP is not wrong when it says that it is getting votes across caste lines,” says assistant professor Manzoor Ali of Lucknow’s Giri Institute.

Referring to the RLD’s unexpected losses in Baghpat and Muzaffarnagar, Mr. Ali feels the Jats overwhelmingly picked the BJP rather than their traditional caste party. The voting in U.P. was in sync with the “national psychology of a strong Hindu India,” said Mr. Ali.

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